Day 8 E for Engineering: Christian Halverson

By October 3rd, 2017


Science, technology, engineering and mathematics to a science teacher, at times, seems a bit of a buzzword. Yet, I have spent a lot of time over the past 17 years inspiring students to see and feel that science is relevant and important to them. Buzzword or concept it maybe, but the importance we place on these areas into the future are likely to ensure a rich rewarding life for many of us, especially those employed in any of these fields. Science and technology, and even maths, has been displayed a little over the last couple of days. So now it is time for the engineers to shine.

Investigator is a very advanced ship that actually uses, at its heart, a rather old piece of technology. She is powered by three diesel engines—massively large, incredibly reliable and very powerful old-styled engines. Yet, they are not directly connected to the ships propellers. Instead, Investigator is actually propelled by electrical engines, not diesel.

Electrical engines have some very important advantages over straight diesel. First, it is much faster to get them to change direction of thrust. That is, to drive the prop one way and then switch over and drive it the other. They can also drive the prop incredibly slowly, or rather faster for the specific purpose and you can fine tune this. Finally, the electrical engines can be more easily set up to be quieter. The electricity of course comes from the diesel engines powering the alternators that power the whole ship. In normal operations, only two diesel engines run, but the 650 volt electricity generated can power over 10,000 homes. So running all of the ship’s systems is a breeze. The third engine, of course, is a backup.

Needless to say, all of this requires some remarkable talent. A chief engineer; chief electrical engineer; first second and third engineer; and more electricians are needed to ensure the safe and efficient running of all of this machinery. Shipping on a global scale has taken a hit like many industries in the numbers of people it employs. Much of it is due to automation, but these vessels will never be without engineers and electricians ensuring that they sail hundreds of thousands of nautical miles.

Coming from a coastal school, I had thought I would see more of my students seeking employment on the open seas. Maybe some of what you read here will inspire you to realise that becoming an engineer could see you building quakeproof houses on the Ring of Fire, or even helping to run Investigator.

I actually prefer STEAM with A for arts. The arts side gives us the creativity to come up with the new jobs that don’t exist now.